Users of Skipton Town Hall have been urged to be patient as it undergoes a major restoration project to turn it into an improved community resource.
Work on the listed building began last month and has so far thrown up some unexpected problems – leading to a temporary 100 person limit and the cancellation of many events.
“We hope the public will be patient, as inconveniences in the short-term will be necessary to transform the hall into a modern facility that will benefit the community for many years to come,” said Craven District Council’s director of services, Paul Ellis.
The council has also begun work on the transformation of the building’s equally grand neighbour, 17-19 High Street in what is the most extensive work to have taken place at the site for decades.
Initially, it is spending £70,000 on work, such as repainting window frames, cleaning stonework and repairing the balcony to give the hall a makeover in time for the summer’s Tour de France.
An additional £220,000 has been allocated from the New Homes Bonus to pay for the next phase of work, set to be completed by March next year, including toilets and a lift for the disabled, and a further £125,000 for a new heating system.
A lean-to on the Jerry Croft side of the building has had to be cordoned off following structural problems, which has meant the temporary loss of a fire escape.
The planned re-opening of the front entrance of 17-19 High Street has been delayed because removal of internal brickwork has revealed the inside floor is too high for the door.
“We are now currently looking at options to create a ramped entrance to solve the issue,” said Mr Ellis.
Work has so far included the re-cobbling of the road near to the delivery entrance, to create continuity with Albion Place.
“Inside, new partition walls have been erected to create a new viewing area in the museum for items currently stored at Snaygill Industrial Estate,” said Mr Ellis.
“A new chair storage area has been created to free up space where the new toilet block will be located.”
There are plans to demolish the lean-to with fire escape off Jerry Croft, but that will mean an application to the council’s own planning committee, which will also have to be sent to the Local Government Office.
That is not expected to be completed until May – when it is hoped that the temporary limit on users will be lifted.
The next few months will see the council working with a design team involving the replacement of the 1960s toilet block.
Its modern replacement will incorporate a new disabled access and will allow Skipton Town Council to move its offices permanently into the building.
Mr Ellis added that a major aspiration of the project was to maintain business as usual.
“However, during the demolition and construction phases, the hall will need be closed to the public for periods of time,” he said.